The median voter theorem suggests that candidates who win elections in equally divided electorates compete to situate themselves as close to the ideological median as possible. The founding fathers recognized this too, albeit less formally. They expected adversarial factions would keep each other from growing too powerful, and that successful candidates would be forced to cross faction lines in order to satisfy the needs of the larger electorate.
It’s not surprising, then, that our political system vests much influence in moderates and Independents. A 2017 Gallup poll found a whopping 42 percent of the American electorate identify as Independent, unaffiliated with any major party. Let that sink in for a moment: Almost half of American voters do not currently identify as “Democrat” or “Republican.” Put another way, if a candidate won the vote of every Democrat and Republican in the country, but no Independents, they would be missing out on the votes of almost half the country. That’s staggering.
Given this goldmine of potential supporters, the median voter theorem advises both parties converge at the political center in order to tap into the support of these uncommitted voters. But last week, the Missouri Democratic Party followed the lead of its national counterpart and did precisely the opposite, common sense be damned. In a shocking move, the state party leadership overturned a vote by members to welcome pro-life Democrats into the party. With this vote, Missouri Democrats not only ideologically alienated, but also actively expelled those in their party who would dare to stand up for human life.
It’s a surprising move, given that the party likely knows it will result in a loss of moderate and single-issue voters in their ranks. Over the last decade, the rise in the percentage of Independent voters (7 percent) has been matched by almost a point-to-point decrease in the percentage of self-identified Democrats (6 percent) over the same period. Meanwhile, the share of Republicans has remained mostly unmoved over that same period, with the exception of 2013, when it briefly dipped by 1 percent. In other words, the eight years of Obama’s presidency saw 6 percent of Democrats fleeing their party to become Independents, while the strength of the GOP remained the same.
Given the Democrats’ history of repelling their own moderates, one would might expect them to be cautious going forward. Then again, we’re talking about the party trying to sell socialism and the Constitution as a living document, so maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised.
Actions like those of the Missouri Democrats raise serious question about what exactly the Democratic Party stands for if it is willing to ostracize members who may agree with the entire platform, but disagree with its stance on abortion. The abortion industry has indeed taken hold of the Democratic Party if its willing to sacrifice all its core values and campaigns, including economic justice and the welfare state, in order to satisfy fringe abortion activists.
But this anti-moderate movement isn’t new for liberals. From the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the disgraceful Abolish ICE movement, to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s recent promotion of Soviet-era government paternalism, the Democratic Party has gone into an anti-moderate overdrive, seeking to cater more to perpetually antagonistic activists than to a thoughtful and dialectical electorate. This disrespect for moderates and dissenters, even those situated largely within their ranks, manifests itself quite concretely on college campuses that discourage, shout down, and punish conservative opinions.
If Democrats are unable to accept internal ideological dissatisfaction from those who largely agree with them, it shouldn’t be a surprise when they lose their minds in the face of arguments that bring their entire worldview into question. If only they could take a break from preaching tolerance to live out a tolerant view, maybe our country would be better off.
Sad as it is to see the desertion of moderates in our political system, the breakneck leftward pace of our opponents should make Republicans happy. The party now has a chance, not only to pick up pro-life voters cast out by the Missouri Democrats (in a highly competitive purple state, no less), but also to capitalize on liberal’s broadly alienating trajectory.
Republicans can and must learn from their failures and take note of what the party shouldn’t be doing. Indeed, it must go the opposite direction, distancing itself in the strongest terms from extremism in its camp, while welcoming moderates of all strains. Republicans must welcome in good faith not only those who agree with all or part of the party’s message, but also those who simply desire to know more about its vision for the country. That people disagree with the party on some level, as they always will, should never be reason for them to be driven out, but instead should fuel a more productive discourse.